March 25, 1943 — Akira Kurosawa’s first film, Sanshiro Sugata, is released in Japan.
People often ask me how I felt directing my maiden work, but, as I have said, I simply enjoyed it. I went to sleep each night looking forward eagerly to the next day’s shooting, and there was absolutely nothing painful about the experience. My crew to a man gave me their utmost. My set designers and wardrobe people ignored the small size of our budget and responded with, ‘O.K. Leave it to us!’ I was deeply touched by their insistence on making everything exactly what I wanted it to be. And all the doubts I had had about my ability to direct before I was give the opportunity vanished after the first shot was completed, like clouds and mist after a rain. The whole task was carried out with a feeling of ease.
This feeling may be a little hard to understand, so let me try to explain. When I was an assistant director, I watched very carefully how Yama-san (Kajiro Yamamoto) directed, and I couldn’t help but be amazed at the way his attention reached every nook and cranny of the production. Feeling that my own eyes could not see that far, I necessarily harbored doubts about my directing talent.
Once I looked at the production from the director’s viewpoint, however, I saw everything I had been unable to see as an assistant director, or even as a second-unit director. I understood the subtle difference between positions. When you are creating your own work, it is entirely different from when you are helping with someone else’s. Moreover, when you are directing your own script, you understand the script better than anyone else possibly can. When I finally became a director, I at last understood all the implications of Yama-san’s order to write scripts first if I wanted to direct. It was because of this that, although Sanshiro Sugata was my very first film, it went exactly the way I wanted it to. Making this film seemed not like ascending a steep precipice, but more like clambering around the gentle slopes at the base of the mountain. My overall impression of it was that of a very pleasant excursion, like a picnic.
— Akira Kurosawa, Something Like an Autobiography